COVID-19 response weekly update: COVID-19 testing on campus

COVID-19 response weekly update

November 2, 2020

Dear colleagues,

Over the last seven days, we tested about 5,000 people. Twelve people from this group tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. In addition, one positive was self-reported from a non-Rice test. Rice’s testing statistics, along with isolation and quarantine data, can be found on the COVID-19 website: https://coronavirus.rice.edu.

False Positive Event. On Friday, Oct. 30, we had 19 positive cases reported from one of our testing providers, an unusually high number from a single testing site, which raised concerns from both Rice and our test provider about the validity of those tests. The samples were retested on the same day we received the initial results. Seventeen of the tests, all from one batch of 91 Rice tests, were incorrect. The error originated with a problem in the testing lab. Because we followed our standard protocol for a positive case, a large number of people were isolated and quarantined due to what eventually was determined to be false positives. Most people were released from isolation and quarantine 12 hours later. We’re sorry for the problems this caused for everyone involved. We also thank our contact tracers, who notified individuals when they needed to isolate and quarantine, then let them know the test results were erroneous. In the more than 240,000 tests conducted by this testing provider, this has never happened before. We’ve reviewed the details of this incident with our testing provider, and given the provider’s rigorous quality control procedures, we believe this incident was an anomaly.

Testing This Week. This week, we’re testing at our intended regular capacity of 1,000 PCR tests a day. If you’re not part of our regular testing cohort and for any reason, you feel you should be tested, you should sign up. If you are regularly coming to the campus, you MUST be tested. Supervisors and departmental chairs are reminded to assess testing compliance in their departments. It is critical to the health of our community.

As we announced last week, we have launched a new, simplified COVID-19 test scheduling process that can be accessed at https://coronavirus.rice.edu/testing-resources. At this website, you will now be able to schedule a testing appointment, cancel or reschedule an appointment, and request the appointment confirmation be resent to you at any time. For help with using the new scheduling system, see these links:

For additional questions about testing, please contact the Rice Community Information Center at (713) 348-4224 (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.) or covidtesting@rice.edu.

You must bring your confirmation email with a QR code (either on your phone or a printed copy) to check in to your testing appointment.

COVID-19 Trends in the greater Houston area. We are seeing a growing number of COVID-19 infections in the greater Houston area over the past few weeks. You can see these trends on the Texas Medical Center website. While the numbers aren’t as bad as in other parts of the country or Texas, we must stay vigilant both on and off-campus and engage in personal health practices that protect ourselves and others.

Voting. A reminder that the Rice campus football stadium serves as a voting location for Election Day Tuesday. The site is outdoors and undercover, a convenient place to vote that’s partially staffed by Rice students. When you go to a polling place, attend a watch party, or engage in any other public activity related to the election, please wear a mask and avoid close contact with others.

On a deeply personal note, I close with the communication that President Leebron and I sent to the campus this morning about the passing of Margarita Rodriguez from complications related to COVID-19. Margarita was a long-serving custodian with FE&P, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Rodriguez family, including her son Mario, who works at Rice.

Kevin Kirby
Chair of the Crisis Management Advisory Committee
Vice President for Administration